2016-17 Fantasy Basketball: Dynasty Rookie Rankings
If you’re like me, nothing beats a dynasty format in fantasy. I think it’s the biggest challenge because every move you make could potentially make or break the future of your franchise. I like that true to the real NBA feel where you have to look beyond right now, and use both statistical analysis and that good ‘ol gut-feeling when targeting players either via trade, from free agency or in a rookie draft. Well, today we are going to be looking at the 2016 NBA rookie class, and I will be ranking them as to how I would draft them if my dynasty rookie draft was this week. I plan to update these rankings again around early September.
Note: If you read the brief player breakdowns you will see that I mention some players as safer targets and some as possibly worth taking a risk or reaching on. This really depends on where your team is sitting looking forward. Like last year I admittedly was uncertain about Kristaps Porzingis and thought it may take him an extra year or two to reach his potential, and I noted him as one that I’d be willing to reach up for if my dynasty team needed to take a swing for the fence as he had legitimate 1+ steal, block and 3-pointer potential, plus was an ace from the foul line. If your dynasty team is in a full-on rebuild mode, than you likely would be more willing to take a shot on a potential higher ceiling, yet more risky player who could possibly become a franchise player (like last year taking a guy like Porzingis over a “safer” but lower ceiling Jahlil Okafor).
Let’s get to the rankings and remember this is directed towards dynasty formats, so looking beyond just right now and strictly from a fantasy perspective. So, while I may like a player’s talent/upside more overall, where they got drafted will definitely be reflected, as well as their age (age shown will be their age as of the start of the upcoming season).
1) Ben Simmons — SF/PF — Philadelphia 76ers — 20-years-old
This isn’t a spot to get cute or make a stance that you think another rookie could be better in the long run, even if it is entirely possible. Ben Simmons has been hyped since over a year ago when we still didn’t know where he’d go to college, and then we saw him dominate college ball at LSU before being drafted number one overall by the Sixers. Well, the hype was real and deserving. The kid shined and made us all ooh and ahh as he made incredible pass, after beautiful pass, after no-look pass. It got to the point that people on Twitter were actually complaining because he was looking to pass before shooting, but I thought he was just sharing the spotlight while also showing his new team that despite being a number one pick, he was very selfless.
After six summer games and playing over 28 minutes per game, Simmons only took double-digit field goal attempts twice at an underwhelming 32% clip. We knew coming in that he needed to work on his jumper, but that’s not something to over-dwell on. LeBron James is still one of the worst outside the paint shooters in the league and I think it’s fair to say that he’s had reasonable success in fantasy. Simmons averaged 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.0 steal and 0.5 blocks this summer, and that ability to load up the stats along those few categories is why he’ll be a fantasy baller right out of the gate even if his FG and FT-percentages (shot 67% from the foul line in 33 college games) are inconsistent in his early years. Thanks to his handles and passing ability, the 6’10” Simmons can play anywhere from a small-ball center to a game controlling point guard. It’s no secret that Philly is a great place to find fantasy production from anyone getting solid playing time, and Simmons should see plenty of it right out of the gate.
2) Brandon Ingram — SF — Los Angeles Lakers — 19-years-old
First words that come to mind when I think of Brandon Ingram (aside from F— Duke) are “smooth assassin.” I don’t know if he’ll ever reach Kevin Durant level, but he has that same frame, loves to get the ball in isolation situations and has a sweet shooting stroke that can hit from distance. In his lone season at Duke, Ingram knocked down 2.2 treys per game at an efficient 41%. He struggled this summer finding his groove though, connecting on just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc, but he started looking more comfortable in the last two games where he shot 13-of-25 from the field and 4-of-10 from trey-ville.
As is the case with a lot of players cut from this mold, there will be a bit of a transitional phase where Ingram will have trouble time to time finding his shot, but I have no doubt that he’s going to turn out to be one of the better shooters and shot creators in the league. Ingram and second-year pro D’Angelo Russell are the future of this franchise, so Ingram should see a fair share of playing time right away, while also playing with and learning from recently signed veteran, and fellow Duke attendee, Luol Deng. I think that’s the perfect kind of player to mentor a future superstar like Ingram. I see Ingram as a 20 points, six boards, three assists, 1.5 steals, one block, 2.5 treys kind of player down the road.
3) Kris Dunn — PG — Minnesota Timberwolves — 22-years-old
I’ve been tracking Kris Dunn closely the past two college seasons, and wow has he ever evolved (no, not like a Pokémon! Ok, well maybe sorta like a Pokémon) into an exciting player. Aside from Ben Simmons, I thought that Dunn was the closest to being NBA ready on their draft night, and in just two games of summer league action, he showed right away that he was above that competition. Sure, he’s older than most in the summer league, but he still went out there and handled his business and looked ready for the regular season. In those two games Kris averaged 34 minutes, 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and 0.5 treys while shooting 54% from the field. The one con was his 9/15 (60%) from the foul line (69% over 95 college game career).
The two not so ideal things about Dunn are his age being a couple years older than most of the other top rookies, and the team he landed on being the Minnesota Timberwolves who have a crowd at guard. The age I’m personally not overly concerned about in his case because unlike a guy like Frank Kaminsky who was also a 22-year-old when drafted, Dunn is ready to play in the league at a pretty high level day one. The team situation I think will eventually sort itself out, like trading one of Ricky Rubio or Zach LaVine. Kris is just too good of a player to be limited, especially beyond his rookie season. In the right place I fully believe Dunn could have had a rookie season similar to the rookie campaign of Tyreke Evans when he put up a line of 20+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 1.5 steals, but Kris would have hit more threes.
(If your league allows you to draft Dario Saric this offseason because he didn’t actually sign a contract with the Sixers until now, this is where I would have him ranked.)
4) Thon Maker — PF — Milwaukee Bucks — “19-years-old”
At this point nothing has factually proven that Thon Maker isn’t indeed 19-years-old, so I have to roll with it believing it’s the truth, and with that being the case, he’s a freak show. I’ve been in love with Thon for a good while now and was saying I’d take him as early as top-5 in the draft way before people were shocked that he went pick ten to the Bucks. There just wasn’t more than three or four players that I was so confident in that it was worth passing up the upside that came with Maker. 7’1″, smooth jumper, quick on his feet, great block timing and he isn’t even close to reaching his potential. In the Vegas summer league he held his own, finishing second in rebounding average while boasting a 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.2 treys despite having some shooting woes (38% from the field and 31% from deep) over the five games. Thon was an attractive 79% from the foul line on 24 attempts which is always a plus with a big man.
His landing spot in Milwaukee is fine if you ask me, and his upside and length just adds to the ridiculous upside of the core of the franchise. With Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Kris Middleton and now Maker, the Bucks could be an absolute force if they all continue to grow stronger. Playing time may not be terrific out of the gate for Thon, but after the team eventually trades away Greg Monroe who they stupidly signed a year ago, a path to more minutes will be clear. Also, if Maker comes to camp and balls out, the Bucks have been hesitant to give John Henson big minutes — even though they didn’t hesitate to give him big money one summer ago — so maybe Maker does find his way into the upper-rotation sooner than expected. Just keep making Thon eat, guys. He needs to gain 50lbs as quick as possible to really become the monster that I foresee in him down the line. So, as mentioned above, Maker is one of the riskier options, not so much a “safe” pick in a dynasty, but I’m personally buying in.
5) Marquese Chriss — PF — Phoenix Suns — 19-years-old
So athletically gifted is Marquese Chriss, always a threat to make a highlight reel play when he’s on the floor. What I like most about Chriss is the combo of strength, size and athleticism whereas most bigs at this age are lucky to just have two of those three. Marquese can finish in the paint and also has a really nice looking jumper, so he’s a dual-threat offensively, and defenders better put a body on him when going for a rebound or he’ll go up and over them for a put-back jam. Chriss has impressive leaping ability in general but his brisk second-bounce is where he really won me over. He’s the perfect fit for this new-age of basketball where you like your bigs to be able to play inside and out. The upside here in undeniable, and even as he is, he can hold his own in the league right now especially in the right matchups because of his offensive triple-threat.
Sounds amazing, right? Well, he will be on that end, but on the other end of the floor is where he needs a lot of polish. Most of his defensive woes can be narrowed down to two things, his lack of experience as he’s only been playing competitively for a few years and his inconsistent motor. Many scouts pointed out that you can tell he saves energy for the offensive end, rarely finds someone to box out when a shot goes up and while he has the speed and hops to stay with his counterparts on D, he frequently looks disinterested. Hopefully now in the big league he’ll stop with the half-assing and bust his tail on both ends. Knowing that the Suns have alternatives in Alex Len, Dragan Bender and the option to go small-ball with Jared Dudley at the four should keep Marquese motivated to focus on rounding out his game.
6) Jamal Murray — PG/SG — Denver Nuggets — 19-years-old
Jamal Murray is the kind of guard that I always like coming out of college, has the ability to run point or play off the ball because he’s a great shooter. Jamal hit the eighth most 3-pointers in the NCAA last year and consistently was a big scorer despite being on a Kentucky team that was loaded with talent as always. Murray showed those scoring skills in his five Vegas summer league games, averaging 19.6 points despite not shooting overly well, especially in games two and three when he shot a combined 2/13 from distance. The rookie shot 41% from beyond the arc last season and has a really pretty form on his jumper, and he also incorporates a nasty step-back in his arsenal.
Ending up in Denver may have not been the perfect destination for Murray in fantasy terms, but I believe the Nuggets will find a way to get him into the lineup at both guard spots. The second half of last season D.J. Augustin was playing 23 minutes per game for the Nugs, and I could see Jamal at least getting those minutes early on, with a sure shot at earning more. The Nuggets just have so many guards in Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Gary Harris and fellow rookie Malik Beasley, not to mention NBA vet Jameer Nelson who they should have no reason to use at this point but you never know. Denver used Augustin and Mudiay together here and there last season, and since Murray can shoot the rock well, it helps when placed beside Mudiay who is still working on his shooting efficiency (shot under 40% from the field post-break last season).
7) Jaylen Brown — SF — Boston Celtics — 20-years-old
I have mixed feelings on Jaylen Brown. I see the potential in him, but he has a lot of grooming to be done before he’s ready to be a fantasy relevant player at this level. On one hand, Evan Turner leaving Boston was a plus for Brown, but when Al Horford signed it was a bigger blow. With Horford finally giving the Celtics a dominant big man they can rely on nightly, it’s going to mean less minutes for Jae Crowder at the four and more at the three which is where Brown will be trying to earn minutes himself, and he’s nowhere near as good as Crowder at this point. Brown has some real shooting efficiency issues as he struggled with his jumper and even finishing as a slasher at times at the University of California. Coming out of high school the scouts raved about the potential Brown showed flashes of, especially in AAU ball, but when he was at Cal and was given free reign (31.4% usage rate, tops in Pac-12) offensively as by far their best offensive weapon, he struggled mightily at times which isn’t uncommon when the defense knows most of the plays are running through Brown. Very possible that playing on a team with much more talent that he can find more of a comfort role and take advantage of all eyes not being on him.
He didn’t do anything this summer to hedge the efficiency fears though as he shot a discouraging 31% from the field and 27% from 3-point land in six games. Brown’s slashing ways (he’s aggressive as hell) to manage to get himself to the foul line 61 times where he converted 69-percent (nice) of them. 14 steals was what caught my eye the most, letting you know he’s got some active hands on-ball and in passing lanes without getting in foul trouble other than one game. He has the qualities that could eventually make him a top-60ish type fantasy player, but that’s likely a couple years off. Being mentored by a guy like Jae Crowder should be good for Brown, Crowder wasn’t a fantasy factor as soon as he hit the league either. Crowder didn’t even show many flashes of his potential until his third season and didn’t truly breakout until year four.
8) Dragan Bender — PF — Phoenix Suns — 18-years-old
In a rebuild, don’t have a top-5 pick in your dynasty rookie draft and want to take the guy with the highest ceiling? Give your best Daenerys Targaryen speech and then take flight on the Dragan (Bender). I had Bender as fourth on my pre-draft rankings and I still think outside of the top-3 in this article he has the highest potential peak, but he has a long ways to go before we’ll know if he’s going to ever reach the summit or if he’ll get halfway and decide to hibernate in a cave. If you blindly look, it’s easy to say Bender compares to Kristaps Porzingis but as DraftExpress.com points out (thank goodness I noticed they dissected this before I went to work on it), despite their per-40 stats at age 18 playing Euro-ball, they’re quite different. Porzingis just showed more weapons on the offensive end where Bender isn’t much of a creator in the half-court. Dragan has a terrific catch and shoot jumper, but it’s just a stand tall and shoot it form, he hasn’t shown the ability to shoot off the dribble (0-for-6 on off-dribble jumpers last year in the Israeli league) or any type of fade-away, etc… like Porzingis has.
Bender does however possess great fluidity on offense and the floor fantastically. He’s a much better passer than Porzingis, often finding the slashing man from the perimeter. While his shot needs to incorporate some versatility, he does have plenty of upside in that department based on his form. In Israel Dragan was defending small forwards on a fairly common basis and due to his excellent (for his size) lateral quickness and length, he did a quality job. If you want to draft someone who will produce right away, you should probably look elsewhere, but long-term, it’s hard to deny the promise from this 7-foot-1 big man. You’ve just got to have patience for him to add weight/strength so that he doesn’t continue to get bullied by physicality on both ends. I like the Suns bringing in Chriss and Bender to go along with Alex Len, all learning from a terrific vet, Tyson Chandler.
9) Ivica Zubac — C — Los Angeles Lakers — 19-years-old
While I prefer a guy like Poeltl if all things are equal, this is the NBA and things aren’t at all equal when it comes to player situations. Poeltl is stuck behind a really solid big man in Toronto, and Ivica Zubac only has recently over-paid Timofey Mozgov and Tarik Black as center options to compete with for playing time. There’s a real chance that Zubac could start getting relevant minutes right away if he continues to play like he did in summer league. I know it’s summer ball competition, but the Lakers don’t have much of a choice and he could truly be part of the team’s future if he develops well. He’s just 19-years-old standing at 7’1″ tall and 265lbs, if they continue to beef this youngin’ up, he could be a real force. I honestly never got to see Zubac play before this summer, but had read about him on DraftExpress where they talked about his recent international showings, “Zubac averaged a sensational 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds over 26.5 minutes per game for Croatia’s U19 squad in Greece to finish second among all players in PER and help his team to a silver medal. The young 7’1 center followed that up averaging 15.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game at the U18 European Championships only a few weeks later, emerging as one of the most promising draft eligible big men outside of the United States.”
One red flag on Zubac for me is that he missed a lot of time in 2014 with the dreaded “foot injury” that so many 7-footers have went through and often have issues with long-term after it happens. He’s been fine though the past two years as far as the foot, so hopefully that’s behind him, but he also went through a meniscus injury. You also have to know that it’s possible that his body never fills out right and he never takes that next step, it happens all the time, but his size and physical tools make it hard not to be overly optimistic. The things he needs to work on aside from adding muscle to his frame, are working on the defensive side of the ball as a shot blocker and rebounder. He fared well this summer grabbing 7+ boards and swatting 2+ shots per in five games, but those won’t come so easy against premier competition. Still, the upside is real and I love taking a gamble on him after the top handful of guys are gone.
10) Jakob Poeltl — C — Toronto Raptors — 21-years-old
As I mentioned above, I like Poeltl more than Zubac right now all things squared, but Jakob is in a much less ideal situation as far as seeing floor time in the near future. Also, Zubac gets a bump for being two years younger. Poeltl really took leaps in his two years at Utah and built himself from a decent prospect after his freshman year to a really good one after his sophomore season, lotto-worthy obviously. Poeltl put up very similar numbers in the FIBA championships at U18 and U19 games as you saw listed above for Zubac, so maybe that gives you a little preview of what Zubac could have done at the college level. Jakob is just a really safe pick, he’s very talented in the post on both ends, with great size, although he’s not overly athletic. He’s got 10+ pts – 8+ rebs – 1+ blk upside with valuable playing time, but that us where there’s an issue.
Toronto drafting him was great from their perspective, knowing that Bismack Biyombo was certainly gone via free agency for big money and in need of a solid backup big. Poeltl is stuck behind Jonas Valanciunas who is locked in for a few more years, and while Jakob could outplay Lucas Noguiera for backup center minutes in time, he’s not a defensive x-factor like Biyombo was to push Jonas to the bench for end of game minutes. Also, the recent signing of Jared Sullinger doesn’t do him any favors at least his rookie season. So, despite his skills, he’s another one you’ll have to simply wait and hope for his situation to improve.
(OK, as much as I’d love to write that much about every rookie, I’m at 3600+ words through ten, so things will be a bit more brief from here forward.)
11) Denzel Valentine — SG — Chicago Bulls — 22-years-old
One of my favorite players to watch this past season in college ball was Denzel Valentine. He did a bit of everything for the Spartans posting a regular season line of 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.4 treys while shooting 46% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc. Valentine finished the 2015-16 season ninth in the NCAA in win shares, took home the AP Player of the Year award also. Things looked good for him in Chicago until Dwyane Wade decided to come to town on a 3-year deal, now Denzel finds himself as a backup behind two wings (Wade and Jimmy Butler) who will play a lot each night. Still he should get decent playing time early, and see more if Wade misses any time, but the real issue with him having to wait a couple seasons for bigger minutes is that he’ll already be 23-years-old in November. I still like his ability to crash the defensive glass, finding the open man and also knocking down triples, so it’s just waiting until his minutes rise over time. Valentine shot 35% from the field and 25.5% from deep in seven summer league games, so definitely hoping he can find his shooting stroke when he is playing alongside top-talent.
12) Wade Baldwin — PG — Memphis Grizzlies — 20-years-old
I had hopes of Wade Baldwin being drafted by a team that didn’t have a locked in quality point man, but instead he went to Memphis who has the highest paid player in the NBA as of typing this (wait til next year…), Mike Conley ahead of him. Still, the Grizzlies are good at not overexerting Conley as he has played a conservative 31 minutes per game the past two seasons. This allowed Mario Chalmers to play 23 minutes a night between guard spots in 55 games with the Grizz last year. Baldwin has great size for an NBA point guard and as DraftExpress points out, he made 40.6% of his 199 three-point attempts during his two collegiate seasons at Vanderbilt. Wade just needs to learn to shoot off the dribble more efficiently and finish better in the paint, although he’s terrific at getting to the foul line (5.9 FTA/g last season), he embraces the contact. He could see 20+ minutes right away between guard spots, and if he can continue to be a knock down shooter and hold his own on defense, he could really become a solid role player in this league until his rookie deal is up where he may find himself a starting job.
13) Buddy Hield — SG — New Orleans Pelicans — 22-years-old
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it plenty more, I’m simply not a believer in Buddy Hield as an NBA player. He’s the size of today’s NBA point guards and so frequently we see players like Jimmer Fredette, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, etc.. go from being terrific scorers in college to near irrelevant when they step up to the physicality level of the NBA, and that’s where I personally think Hield will find himself. That all said, he’s got a good shot at starting from day one, so he will get early playing time, which many other rookies won’t see, and that’s the only reason that I have Buddy this high. You may also think about drafting him and quickly trading him to a member of your league who is a fan of his before he plays an NBA game. Hopefully they take his awful shooting (33% FG/23% 3pt) in summer league as just an off couple of games.
14) Juan Hernangomez — SF/PF — Denver Nuggets — 21-years-old
So many depth chart issues in Denver, but Juan Hernangomez can play some ball and he showed that in summer league. The one upside to his depth chart situation is that Danilo Gallinari (missed 20+ games four of the last five seasons) and Wilson Chandler (missed all of last season due to hip surgery) are two of the guys in his way, so he could move up if they miss time. Also, the Nuggets wouldn’t have kept Hernangomez here instead of stashing him — letting him play more minutes, gaining experience — over in Spain for a season if they didn’t plan to get him some playing time. Juan impressed this summer averaging 10.2 points and 8.2 boards while shooting 54% from the field. Plenty of long-term potential here for dynasty owners who are okay not getting immediate production.
15) Deyonta Davis — PF/C — Memphis Grizzlies — 19-years-old
How Deyonta Davis fell all the way to round two I will never know. I mean, he’s not the best interview by any means, but he’s one helluva gifted athlete. 6’11” tall, 7’2″ wingspan and 240lb 19-year-old body with a lot of room to grow in the weight/muscle department is a lot to be excited about. His rebounding — especially offensive — and shot blocking is what really stands out here, but watching his games it’s not hard to see that he can be a solid offensive contributor in time as well, even develop a nice outside the paint jumper. Davis is just still really raw, and is a year or two away from showing us if he’ll become the player we have seen glimpses of. He’s buried on the depth chart for now, but has some really good vets around him to lead him if he’ll listen.
16) Timothe Luwawu — SG — Philadelphia 76ers — 21-years-old
Aside from having a fun name to say, Timothe Luwawu brings a lot to the table for a young international player. I read up on Luwawu a year ago as I was doing my quarterly international players check-in, and Luwawu seemed like just another high-motored euro who couldn’t shoot his way into the NBA. Then, a year goes by and not only did his physical frame mature, but he also showed great improvement on his jumper, albeit inconsistent at times. The Frenchman looked much better on a team that he had a larger role in the offense, he embraced it and ran with it. So, landing on a team like the 76ers was the perfect scenario. Philly has said he’ll spend time in the D-League this year, but with just the underwhelming Gerald Henderson and ‘meh’ to this point Nik Stauskas ahead of him on the depth chart, I could definitely see Luwawu getting more run towards the later half of the upcoming season season.
17) Skal Labissiere — PF/C — Sacramento Kings — 20-years-old
The hype headed into last season was really high for Skal Labissiere as he was placed in the top-5 of most NBA mock drafts this time last year, but he underwhelmed statistically averaging just over six points and three rebounds on the season at Kentucky. The good news for Skal was that there is apparently some under the table agreement with the Kings’ front-office and Kentucky that they will draft all the big men from UK. Labissiere joins fellow UK bigs, DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein in the Kings’ frontcourt and gives him time to grow and mature for awhile before being depended on. For his size, Skal is incredibly light on his feet, quick and has really good jumper mechanics. He’s just got to figure out how to stay on his feet so that he doesn’t foul out of every game he plays more than 15 minutes in, he’s really, really bad at that currently, and his recognition on defense it always late, making him late to the spots he needs to be. There’s a really high ceiling here if Skal matures well, but it’s not going to be any time soon.
18) Taurean Prince — SF — Atlanta Hawks — 22-years-old
If you saw highlighter yellow flashes on the TV screen, it was usually Baylor playing hoops in their all-volt uniforms, and if you watched for more than a couple minutes then you definitely noticed that Taurean Prince stood out as the best player on the floor. Prince is a projected 3 and D type in the league, has great size, length and should do well learning the ropes behind the likes of vet wings, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha this season. I expect Prince to not play a big role year one, but to step into 20+ minutes year two as Korver and Thabo will be free agents at the end of the 2016-17 season. Prince was traded to Atlanta in the Jeff Teague deal, and due to the trade taking a bit to finalize, he wasn’t able to practice with the Hawks summer squad, he was instead thrust right into the games later. If he can improve his ball-handling and learn that he can’t force the offense by overpowering his opponents at this level, he should round into a real quality player.
19) Henry Ellenson — PF — Detroit Pistons — 19-years-old
Henry Ellenson got drafted by the perfect coach for his style of play and potential. Stan Van Gundy loves bigs that can stretch the floor and Ellenson showed legitimate flashes of his shooting ability knocking down just under one 3-pointer per game in his lone season at Marquette. Henry has the ideal frame of a young NBA big man at 6’10” and a 9’1″ standing reach, and for being that big, this kid has some handles on him and create his own shot with really impressive instincts. SVG could mold this guy into a real baller in time. For now though, he’ll likely sit behind Tobias Harris and newly acquired Jon Leuer, but if Ellenson keeps himself in prime shape he should push for more playing time by year two.
20) Brice Johnson — PF — Los Angeles Clippers — 22-years-old
I like Brice Johnson more than this, but he didn’t land in an ideal place as far as the depth chart goes. Still if Brice plays at his best daily in practices, I could see him getting minutes over Brandon Bass as his rookie season goes on. The athleticism of Johnson is what is going to make him a viable NBA option, even if it’s a first big off the bench type long-term. Brice led the Tar Heels to the National Championship game his senior season and averaged a double-double (17pts – 10.5rebs) over the year. Brice will love catching lobs from Chris Paul at this level as he soars above the rim with ease, CP3 was exactly the kind of player we wanted to see Johnson paired with. While Brice averaged 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per-40, he lacked defensive discipline when it came to staying on his feet, so he battled foul trouble. Doc Rivers should be just the guy to help him realize he doesn’t need to be a jump happy big at this level, especially when you have a monster like DeAndre Jordan with your backside help.
(Let’s be honest, at this point it’s a real crap shoot, you’re just looking things over and hoping that who you take develops well and/or finds playing time sooner than expected. So, the rest of these won’t be broken down in this first version of the rookie dynasty ranks)
21) Malik Beasley — SG — Denver Nuggets — 19-years-old
Loved his game and upside out of FSU, really surprised me when I expected FSU to be all about Dwayne Bacon. Malik landed in a dreaded situation in Denver though. Tons of young talent and some vets mixed in. How the roles shake out here is a big mystery, but Beasley isn’t likely to see relevant minutes any time soon.
22) Donatas Sabonis — PF/C — Oklahoma City Thunder — 20-years-old
He’s great in the post, has nice footwork and touch, but the fact that he’s beyond buried on the Thunder depth chart makes him less appealing. Really good rebounder, but he’s a couple years away from seeing relevant court time if he stays in OKC.
23) Patrick McCaw — SG — Golden State Warriors — 21-years-old
Obviously the Warriors are beyond loaded, but McCaw could be in the mix for minor minutes this season. He is well-rounded, he can shoot the rock inside and out, passes well and his length helps him be a quality defender. Played great in summer league, and it will do him well playing and learning behind the GSW vets. It’s just tough to be a fantasy producer if you’re not part of the Warriors core-four.
24) Ante Zizic — C — Boston Celtics — 19-years-old
Massive 7-footer, staying in Europe to play for at least one more season, but if you’re a team in tank errrr rebuild mode, then consider taking him in this late first round and stashing him.
25) Cheick Diallo — PF — New Orleans Pelicans — 20-years-old
Really raw, but really high-motor and determined to improve each day. Wasn’t on my radar until he participated at the NBA combine, and he took full advantage of that chance to show what he can do when given PT. Sat the bench a lot this past year at Kansas, but the upside is nice despite being a bit undersized for an NBA big man. Diallo was drafted by a team where he gets that chance to develop his game and put on weight, and he could see playing time by 2017-18 if he continues to evolve his inexperienced game. Not going to be a big scorer, but boards and blocks could be his path to fantasy relevance.
26) Tyler Ulis — PG — Phoenix Suns — 20-years-old
Ulis showed out in summer league averaging 14.5 points, 6.3 assists and 2.8 steals despite shooting just 41% from the field. He’s extremely undersized at 5’10” and 150lbs, but he’ll have time to grow in size and as an all-around player, likely in the D-League this season since Phoenix is loaded at guard. Maybe the Suns move Brandon Knight at some point this year or next summer and Ulis moves up.
27) Dejounte Murray — PG/SG — San Antonio Spurs — 20-years-old
He’s a year or two from even scratching the surface of playing time in San Antonio, which is never guaranteed to come around, but he’s a really good tweener guard in general. If he’s ever going to crack a Spurs rotation though, he’s going to have to stop looking for his own shot so frequently and learn to make the passes needed if they’re there. 66% from the foul line isn’t something I like to see either.
28) Malcolm Brogdon — SG — Milwaukee Bucks — 23-years-old
It’s not an easy rotation to crack in Milwaukee, but Brogdon is a really pure play overall, so he could eventually earn some PT. He’s never going to be a star, but could be a solid bench wing who can shoot and defend. Not flashy but he’s got an unstoppable motor that has made him succeed at every level. Let’s see if he has another step in him.
29) Caris LeVert — PG/SG — Brooklyn Nets — 22-years-old
I was stunned when the Nets took LeVert at 20th overall. I mean, he’s shown that he can be a really good guard, but he’s already had issues with the same foot injury three times — played only 19 collegiate games over the past two seasons at Michigan. He just had another surgery on that foot in March. The upside is that the Nets suck, so they don’t have any reason to rush him back, and when he does get healthy, he’d have a shot at fighting for playing time as long as his foot holds up.
30) Malachi Richardson — SG — Sacramento Kings — 20-years-old
Will he ever become an efficient enough scorer to see success at this level? It’s hard to say, but it’s very rare for a college player who shot under 40% from inside the arc to transition to a good NBA player. Has great size, but his upside is a sixth man scoring type, and that’s not gonna fly if he’s shooting sub-40%.
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